Dementia-friendly unit, West Heath

The ward refurbishment at West Heath Hospital, Birmingham, has seen the latest principles in dementia-friendly design used to create a new 18-bed intermediate care facility for patients who have been admitted to hospital but suffer with dementia.

The new facility was developed by Birmingham and Solihull (BaS) LIFT and its private sector development partner, Prime, in conjunction with Birmingham Community Healthcare NHS Trust (BCHC).

Part of a national pilot scheme, Prime worked with the Trust to secure almost £1 million of funding for the project through the Department of Health’s King’s Fund.

With a total refurbishment required – only the roof, floor pad and foundations remained – the team used its extensive project management expertise to co-ordinate the contractor and design team to deliver a successful scheme.

The unit features six private en-suite rooms, and three, four-bed bays, as well as an open plan kitchen, dining area, living room, breakout spaces and therapeutic garden. The use of colour, contrasting wall and floor finishes, therapeutic lighting, simple signage and easy to use taps, showers and light switches all help patients to live as independently as possible while recuperating and preparing to go home.

Responding to clinical need

BaS LIFT ensured the unit was supportive of the Trust’s objective to ease the patient transition between hospital and home. While staying at the unit, patients are encouraged to maintain their independence and perform everyday tasks such as preparing their own snacks in the open plan kitchen. This is particularly important as dementia sufferers typically exhibit a loss of interest in food which can lead to nutritional issues and further health problems. The environment is also stimulating for patients with reading areas, while outside raised planters have been incorporated for those patients with an interest in gardening and the outdoors.

To ensure patients don't become isolated at the unit, the design of the facility encourages socialisation and supports the involvement of friends and family in the rehabilitation process. Breakout seating areas encourage informal interaction, while a multimedia player in the lounge allows visitors to share videos and pictures easily with their loved ones to stimulate memory recall.